As we've stated over and over again, it's a bit simplistic to place the "blame" for Aaron Swartz's suicide on the federal prosecutors, led by US Attorney Carmen Ortiz and her assistant Stephen Heymann. It is still quite reasonable to question their activities, but suicide is a complex thing and going all the way there may be going too far. Still, you can understand why Swartz's family did, in fact, directly call out the US Attorneys given their hardline position on the case, and the stress that created for Swartz. Lots of reporters have been contacting Ortiz and Heymann and the US Attorneys' offices and have consistently been getting back a big fat "no comment." Some reporters are even upset that no one put President Obama on the spot
concerning the Swartz suicide at Obama's recent press conference. But, the stance of the government has been to avoid all such questions.
However, some noticed that Ortiz's husband
-- an IBM exec named Tom Dolan -- apparently felt no such restriction. He took to Twitter... to complain about the statement from the Swartz family
and to further scold anyone
who claimed that Swartz faced 35-years in prison. Amazingly, he chose to do this by taking on some "big names" in the tech and media world: Mitch Kapor, Dan Gillmor and the blog ThinkProgress:
Dolan has since deleted his entire account after he either came to his senses or someone suggested strongly that he think better of it. While you can understand his desire to defend his wife's efforts, the tweets aren't just somewhat offensive following Aaron's suicide, but misleading as well. To argue that the prosecution was fair because they offered him a 6 month plea deal is complete and utter hogwash. As many have pointed out, it doesn't appear that Aaron should have been facing any
federal charges at all. The 35 years is completely relevant, because that's part of the hammer
that his wife was using to pressure him into taking the 6 month plea deal so that she and her assistant could get a big headline about another "guilty" plea. To act like the 6 month offer is some sort of "leniency" is insane when you know the details of the case and everything else that came with it.
Dolan also -- conveniently -- ignores that the government supposedly told Aaron's lawyers that if he didn't take the deal, the next one they'd come back with would be worse
, and that if the case actually got to court, they'd try to get the judge (notorious for strict sentences) to throw the book at Swartz.
The one thing that Dolan got right is that "35 years" probably wasn't accurate. But he had it in the wrong direction. The original
four charges had a maximum possibility of 35 years. After Dolan's wife upped the charge count to 13, it was looking like the total could possibly be upwards of 50 years -- for a situation where Swartz didn't think he'd done anything wrong. In that scenario, the plea bargain is an insult, but the entire situation must be incredibly difficult. Dolan's response isn't just insensitive, but it's downright misleading.